Reading Isn’t Dead Yet!


As an internet-addicted millennial, I’m well aware that the printed word is dying. Our generation is going to be the death of printed magazines and newspapers. I haven’t read a newspaper in years, but thanks to Google News, Digg, Reddit, NowPublic and others; I’m still as informed as I was when I used to keep scrapbooks full of newspaper clippings.

But what I didn’t know is that books are already toast. Steve Jobs recently told the New York Times his opinion on Amazon’s Kindle electronic book reader.

“It doesn’t matter how good or bad the product is, the fact is that people don’t read anymore,” he said. “Forty percent of the people in the U.S. read one book or less last year. The whole conception is flawed at the top because people don’t read anymore.”


Will Pate, If People Don’t Read, Why Keep Writing?

As an Internet-addicted millenial, I’m also deeply addicted to the reading. I read. A lot. I read because I love learning about things and books give me the most bang for the buck when it comes to established topics, thanks to the research and thought people have put into their books, and I read because I love having fantastic conversations with fellow bookworms. Granted, I read more than almost everyone I know, but most of my friends read a lot too. And if we’re this weird geeky island in a sea of people who’d rather watch television or video and be constrained to the speed and order at which someone communicates, then that’s the way it is.

I don’t think the picture is as bleak as Steve Jobs paints it, though. People read and write, but they read and write mostly light material: e-mail, blog posts, things like that. A Vision of Students Today (video below) makes that point very well. Jump to 1:58 if you want to see just that bit.

So people read a lot, but it’s like what people would get if they read only magazine or newspaper articles. It’s like snacking instead of eating your vegetables. Vegetables, properly done, can be quite yummy. Books, too. But the good thing about it is that many books are going online, whether it’s because publishers and authors are trying new ways to reach more people, or even people like me are writing online because of the quick feedback of the Internet.

The printed word isn’t dying. It’s going online. It’s moving onward and upward. And if that forces writers and publishers and readers (who might also be writers and publishers in this new world) to figure out new models for the way we do things, great!

  • I love reading. I can’t even begin to explain just how much. I’ve almost every wall of the house covered in bookshelves. But the issue these days has always been time. I’m a deathly slow reader. I like to savour the words. I like to hear them in my head and picture the expressions of the speaker. Years of drama and acting coupled with an absolute ham of a father have done that to me, I think. This leads me to take for bloody ever to finish a book.

    But these days, with running a company, and coordinating a million other things, I find so little time to sit and actually enjoy a good book from cover to cover. I tend to read a lot online, partly from necessity, and partly for pleasure, but the flip side of this is that I absolutely abhor reading online. It’s just not half as much fun as reading a book. There’s no feel of the pages, no smell of the paper. There’s nothing especially tactile about twiddling a mouse or pushing a down arrow.

    If it weren’t for spare moments, frequent flights, and the occasional Airport Shuttle, I might never finish books these days.

    I don’t feel the situation is altogether as bleak and hopeless as Jobs makes it out to be, but it DOES seem that, for some reason, we live in a generation where there are a lot of people who don’t like to read for fun, and the ones I know who do don’t often get enough time to do it. Even as I type this, I’m sort of glancing at a balance sheet, and I can see a log file scrolling in the background telling me information I SHOULD be ignoring to concentrate solely on one thing. But as soon as I’ve hit ‘Submit Comment,’ one of the two of them will pull my attention away for an hour or two.

    One of them always does.

    Meanwhile, I have 30 pages left of The Code Book sitting in a sling bag next to me, calling me with their lonely, needy cry. They want to be read. But they know full well I won’t get to them until about 11:30pm tonight.

  • There are some books you read slowly, savoring each juicy well-written word, and there are some books you scan quickly because you’re looking for just one or two good thoughts in the sea of things you’ve already read about in other books. =) How to Read a Book has more on this.

    If the best way for you to read is to savor a book, and you can only do so for ten or twenty minutes a day, then that’s still _wonderful._ =)